Would that the j*ck*ss had sunk into the mud up to his waist. They could have left him there for River Dog to find.Misha wrote:no matter which part I take, it's still bad... well, except Lewis getting all dirty in the woods, that's satisfying
Him and everyone else. They all went running, conveniently getting at least some enemies out of the way. I wonder if Brivari realized that Jaddo's "puppies to a food bowl" comment applied to him as well. (Probably better if he didn't. )Michelle in Yonkers wrote:So the light in the sky was really to decoy Brivari.
The thing is, there is sound logic to much of Jaddo's viewpoint. It is arguably dangerous to have all one's eggs in one basket, especially when those eggs are so few and so valuable. If Jaddo had waited until Nicholas got bored and left town, Brivari may have been willing to consider moving some of the hybrids, even if only to shut him up. But he's too impatient for that, and not one to compromise even on a good day.
November 2, 1959, 11:00 p.m.
Ruth Bruce's boarding house
Dee pulled her father's car alongside the curb in front of her old boarding house and shut off the engine. She felt faintly ridiculous coming out here so late, but then she hadn't been able to sleep, and Courtney was likely to either still be awake or have only just gone to bed. Add to that the fact that she'd wanted to come alone, and that settled it. No one would miss her at this hour.
The car door closing sounded too loud on the quiet street; even her footsteps on the front walk seemed noisier than usual. The sound of a television floated from the back of the house when she opened the front door; Mrs. Bruce must be watching TV, one of her favorite pastimes. Still, the landlady famously hated noise at this hour, so Dee was careful to squelch her impatience and tiptoe all the way up the stairs. She'd been dying to talk to Courtney all day, especially since Anthony had, for some odd reason, agreed to stay in town, at least for awhile. Since Courtney thought they were leaving soon, she wanted her to know otherwise as soon as possible.
She's up, Dee thought gratefully as she stood in front of Courtney's door and heard her moving around. Not that she would have been upset at being awakened, but it was better not to have to. "Courtney?" she called, knocking softly on the door. "It's Dee. I'm sorry it's so late, but can I come in?"
The sounds of movement abruptly ceased, followed by a pause which grew uncomfortably long. Why was she taking so long to open the door? Was someone else in there with her? Her father, maybe? But then why would he hesitate to open the door? Mr. Harris had been strangely subdued upon hearing the details of Malik's death, not at all angry or judgmental like she'd expected. For a moment there, she'd actually entertained the notion that Malik's sacrifice might have taught him something....
Dee startled back to the present as the door suddenly opened to reveal a man she'd never seen before who was peering at her curiously. No....not curiously. Suspiciously.
"What do you want?" he demanded.
"I....was looking for Courtney," Dee answered warily.
"I'm a friend of hers. I used to live across the hall from her."
The man's eyes narrowed. "Do all her friends come looking for her this late at night?"
Dee's heart began to pound. Something had pretty clearly happened, and whatever it was, it wasn't good....which meant she had to get into that room. "I'm home from college for just a few days, so I won't get much chance to see her," she said lightly. "I'm sure she won't mind. Courtney!" she called, pushing past the man so quickly that he didn't have time to object. "Sorry to bother you, but...."
Dee stopped just inside the door. Another man she'd never seen before was on the far side of the room, Courtney was nowhere in sight, and the entire room was in shambles, drawers pulled out, the bed stripped, even the refrigerator opened. Dee's eyes brushed the empty space on the bedside table which usually held a drawer, now upended on the floor; Courtney used to kept her trithium generator in that drawer when she was sleeping, but it wasn't there now.
Both men stared at her appraisingly as Dee did her best to look confused, acutely aware that in her haste to rescue Courtney, she'd landed herself alone in a room with two undoubtedly hostile aliens. One whiff that she knew anything about them, and it was unlikely she'd leave alive. "Where's Courtney?" she asked innocently, looking around at the mess. "Is she moving out?"
The tension in the room eased slightly....but only slightly. "Can I leave her a message?" Dee went on. "I have to go back to school soon, so I don't know if I'll get back here again before I leave."
Buy it, Dee prayed desperately as doubt flickered in the men's eyes and she did some frantic calculations. The man at the window was far enough away to evade, but the one who had answered the door was planted squarely in front of and every bit as wide as that door. Getting past him wasn't going to be easy.
"What do you think?" the door man asked.
"About what?" Dee asked.
"It's long been rumored they had allies here," the second one answered, ignoring her.
"True," door man murmured, fastening hard eyes on her. "Where are they?"
"Where are who?" Dee said, resisting the urge to back up as both men started walking slowly toward her.
"You know who," door man said sharply. "Where are they hiding?"
"Okay, guys?" Dee said quickly. "You're scaring me. What are you talking about? You're not....wait. You're not with those conspiracy theorists who think Hitler faked his own death and is still trying to take over the world, are you?"
She was waiting for doubt to set in again, but this time it didn't. They kept advancing, slowly but surely, and it occurred to her that it must look odd that she wasn't backing up. Wasn't that what a normal human would do? Standing her ground just made her look like the perfect ally, which was exactly what she didn't want. "Look, I don't know who you are," she said, moving backwards, "but I really don't care. I came here to see my friend, and since she's not here, I'll just run along."
Dee's backward travels came to an abrupt halt when she bumped into something, and with a sudden flash of inspiration, she gave whatever it was a hard shove. There was a loud crash as the bedside table rocked back against the wall, toppling its lamp and sending her sprawling to the floor. Fortuitously as it turned out, because from this angle she could clearly see the edge of a trithium generator wedged between the mattress and the box spring right where Courtney could have reached down and grabbed it. They'd stripped the bed, but they hadn't gone far enough.
The noise of the lamp falling had produced the expected reaction. "What was that?" called an alarmed voice from downstairs. Mrs. Bruce never could abide noise after 10 p.m., and the muffled sound of slipper-clad feet promptly sounded on the stairs. Both men's heads swung toward the door, and Dee seized that opportunity to snatch the generator and scramble to her feet. She was shoving it in her pocket when Mrs. Bruce rapped on the door.
"Miss Harris? What was that noise? Is everything all right?"
Their attention still diverted, Dee darted past the men and pulled the door open. "Mrs. Evans!" exclaimed Mrs. Bruce, clad in a fuzzy robe and slippers. "What was...." She stopped peering past her. "What's going on?" she demanded. "Who are these people? Where is Miss Harris?"
"I'm not sure," Dee said, edging into the hallway. "I'm guessing that Courtney's moving out."
"She is? She hasn't said anything to me!" Mrs. Bruce exclaimed. "Honestly, that family is more trouble than they're worth! First she's here, then she's not, then she's back, then he's here, and now what? Is her father moving out too?"
"Couldn't tell you," Dee said brightly. "I should be going. I'll have to catch her another time."
"Well, when you do, tell her they have to give me a full month's notice," Mrs. Bruce said stoutly. "You, too," she added to the men, who hadn't said a word or moved a muscle. "I can't afford to have paying tenants just up and leave without having time to replace them. Honestly, don't people understand this is my livelihood? How am I supposed to eat if I don't have money coming in? I already put up with weeks of an empty house, and...."
But Dee didn't hear the rest of it. The looks on the men's faces made it clear that Mrs. Bruce's diatribe had done what Dee's had failed to do—convinced them that she knew nothing about Courtney's true identity. She'd gotten herself out of harm's way, but Courtney was still missing, and she'd left Mrs. Bruce back there all by herself.
Maybe it was time to call in professional help.
Outskirts of Roswell
Courtney peered out the window at the barn which had been the site of Malik's death. What did it mean, her being brought here? Greer had behaved in a completely neutral manner after awakening her so gruffly, waiting at least somewhat patiently until she'd dressed and delivering her to a car driven by two barely familiar operatives who were polite, but silent. But he wouldn't say what all this was about, nor did he join them, remaining behind as the car drove off. Was he collecting other people? Or had something happened to her father? Or since they were back at the barn, had they captured another Covari? Or....
She closed her eyes, mentally pushing away the worst of the possibilities. And the most likely, she admitted as one of the operatives held the door open for her. What with Nicholas rummaging around in people's minds and what she'd seen in the trunk of that car earlier, the time was ripe for something to go wrong. Still, she shouldn't just assume that, or she could wind up giving herself away unnecessarily. Besides, if what she feared most were true, why was everyone being so nice to her? She was still ticking down the list of possibilities as she was ushered into the barn's interior....and stopped dead in her tracks.
About a dozen operatives stood in a ring, one of them her father, wearing a guarded expression. And on the floor in the center of that ring were four huge pods, each a giant watery blister, each glowing so brightly that extraneous lights were almost unnecessary. No one stopped her as she walked slowly forward, taking a place in the circle, her eyes on the pods. The one she'd seen in the trunk had seemed huge; here, in this wide open space, they looked even bigger, not smaller as she would have expected. The closest pod held the sleeping form of what looked to be a human boy about Philip's size, curled on his side, a shock of dark hair framing his face. To his left was a female with yellow hair in a similar position. It wasn't hard to guess what the other two contained.
"Hello, Courtney. So glad you could join us."
Courtney's eyes flew up. She hadn't even noticed Nicholas standing across the circle from her. He looked calm, even casual, and for a moment, she entertained the notion that she had merely been summoned to witness the triumph of the hybrids' capture. But that couldn't be it because the only way to find the hybrids would have been to trail the resistance operatives in whose care they had been placed.....and who had ultimately failed to protect them.
"Aren't you going to say anything?" Nicholas asked.
Courtney resisted the urge to look at her father, still uncertain as to how much Nicholas had figured out. "I....I don't know what to say," she answered, not entirely untruthfully. "All this time, and now here they are......however did you find them?"
"That's quite a story," Nicholas said. "Want to hear it?"
His manner was still relaxed, his tone still casual.....and that, she realized, was the problem. Nicholas had what he wanted, had finally found what he'd come here for....and he wasn't excited. He should be hopping from one foot to the other, barely able to contain himself like he'd been when Malik had been captured, yet there he stood, motionless and composed, the very opposite of what he should be, what his nature led him to be. Unless, of course, he was in the midst of fingering a traitor, in which case his behavior was just exactly what she would have expected.
"Of course I want to hear it," she answered.
"Oh, good," Nicholas said happily, as though he'd been afraid she'd refuse. "See, the other night, when I used those human neuro....neuro.....whatever's, I saw something in that Covari's mind that was terribly important. Trouble was that, after I came to, all I remembered was that I'd seen something terribly important. But I couldn't remember what."
"So....you saw where the pods were hidden?" Courtney asked.
Nicholas shook his head. "Nope. That wouldn't work anyway; that would have been harming the king, and they're engineered not to snitch. No, I couldn't remember what I'd seen, and it was driving me nuts....until we caught an operative trying to leave town with these."
"Operative?" Courtney echoed, hoping she sounded sufficiently confused. "Do you mean.....do you mean one of us? None of our people could have known where these were. They would have told you."
"You'd think, wouldn't you?" Nicholas agreed. "But maybe the humans are right and clouds really do have silver linings. Because that's when I remembered what I'd seen in that Covari's sorry excuse for a mind." He leaned into the circle, his eyes roving from one face to another. "Resistance."
There was a sharp intake of breath all around, accompanied by shocked looks that appeared to be genuine. They didn't know, Courtney realized. This was the first they'd heard of it. Meaning Nicholas was still fuzzy on the details, so she and her father might still be all right.
"They followed us," Nicholas continued, beginning a slow circuit of those assembled, walking behind them as they looked at one another in dismay. "After all the precautions I took, all the checks and balances I put in place, the resistance made it all the way to Earth. And do you know what that means? How about you?" he asked the nearest operative, whose eyes widened in alarm. "Take a stab at it. What does that mean?"
"That...." The operative's voice faltered, then recovered. "That they've infiltrated us to very high levels. High enough that they could slip through."
"Very good!" Nicholas replied with false cheer as Courtney's stomach lurched. "They must be way up there to have doctored all those background checks, all the monitoring, all the tap dancing I did to make sure....sure....those scum didn't follow us. Hell, they'd have to be so high up, they'd have to be....me. Or Khivar."
The barn door opened. Greer appeared, followed by another operative, and Courtney's heart sank as he walked up to Nicholas and whispered in his ear. It looked like Nicholas still trusted Greer. For once, she would have felt a lot better if it had been her father whispering in his ear.
"Unfortunately the operative we caught with these wasn't terribly forthcoming," Nicholas said sadly. "Part of that was my fault, I suppose; I've just been informed they didn't live long enough to be of much help. We only managed to get one thing out of them. Would you like to tell everyone what that was.....Michael?"
Gasps sounded around the circle, and any hope that her father had managed to remain hidden evaporated as he fixed his master with a hard stare he would never have used under normal circumstances. "Amazing, isn't it?" Nicholas continued calmly, as though he were conducting a business meeting. "My own third, not only resistance but head of the resistance! Impressive, Michael, very impressive. I have a unique understanding of the difficulties you must have faced in concealing that from me. Under different circumstances, I'd pin a medal on you myself." He walked closer to Michael, who didn't budge. "But these aren't different circumstances, are they?"
There was a pause while everyone waited for a response.
"You are, without a doubt, the worst thing that has ever happened to Antar," Michael said. "Go to hell."
More gasps. Courtney stood frozen to the spot, acutely aware of what her father's response meant. If there had been a chance, however small, that he could have successfully denied the accusation, he would have at least tried to do so; the fact that he hadn't bothered meant the game had been over before she'd entered the building. And now that everyone else here knew, their shock at her father's confirmation would rapidly change to anger, and that anger would become violent. He would be tortured, forced to tell all he knew, and they would make her not only watch, but participate before they started on her.
"Your father tells me," Nicholas continued, "that you knew nothing about this, Courtney. That he was operating independently, that you are not also a member of the resistance. Hard to believe that he could keep that from his own family, but then he did manage to keep it from me. My congratulations again, for all the good it will do him."
Every pair of eyes in the room focused on Courtney, their scrutiny as searing as tiny flames. A way out. That's what her father offered her now. She could easily say she knew nothing; there was no way to track her, no damning communications to find. Even if they accessed the telephone records and discovered how often they'd spoken on the phone, there was no way to learn the content of those conversations. Assuming Nicholas didn't remember more than he was letting on, that is, or the captured operative hadn't spilled anything else....
"So....is this true?" Nicholas asked, standing directly in front of her, close enough to touch her. "Are you loyal to Khivar? Are you loyal to me?"
Say yes. The message pounded inside Courtney's head even though she wasn't looking at her father, didn't dare look at him. They'd already lost an operative, her father was as good as dead, and the resistance needed every operative it could get. All she had to do was tell Nicholas she was loyal, and he'd buy it, for a little while, at least. Long enough to warn the other resistance members, maybe steal some equipment or conduct a little sabotage while Nicholas was still trying to sort it all out....
And then she looked directly into those hard eyes that she would have to bow before the way her father did, they way he had all these years.
"I think I see a chest hair, Nicholas," she said softly. "Way to go."
Roswell Sheriff's Station
Dee stepped hastily aside as she entered the sheriff's station, almost blundering into someone hurrying by. She'd fully expected the place to be dead at this hour, but instead it was hopping, with deputies and a number of men in dark suits alternately scurrying around or arguing with each other. No citizens, she noted as she made her way to the front desk. If there had been an accident, or a robbery, or anything typical, there would be people in here making statements or filing complaints. This was weird.
But maybe good for me, she added as she glanced down the long hallway to the right of the front desk and caught a glimpse of Valenti walking into his office. Whatever was happening was important enough to command the attention of Roswell's sheriff near midnight. She'd been planning to ask for Valenti's home address and go knock on his door and drag him out of bed. This should be easier.
"Hi," she said to the harried deputy at the front desk. "I'm—"
"Dee Evans," the deputy answered. "We met last summer at Courtney Harris' apartment."
Right, Dee thought heavily, recalling that testy encounter. Didn't it just figure that the first person she'd meet would be someone she'd had an argument with. "I need to see the sheriff," she said before there could be any further discussion about their first meeting. "It's really important."
"The sheriff isn't here at this hour. What's the problem?"
"Nice try, but I just saw him go into his office," Dee said blandly.
The deputy shot her an annoyed look. "Then he's busy. Like I said, what's the problem?"
"I'd rather talk to him personally—"
"Of course you would. Wouldn't everyone? But, see, everyone can't do that, which is why the sheriff has a staff. So either you talk to me, or you talk to no one. Which will it be?"
Dee opened her mouth to launch into a retort, then caught herself just in time. "Of course," she answered. "I'll.....come back later."
"Suit yourself," the deputy answered.
Don't mind if I do, Dee thought, backing away from the desk and hesitating before slipping down the hall. It wasn't hard; everyone was so caught up in whatever they were doing that no one paid her any mind. So no one stopped her from walking right up to Valenti's office door or from nearly being run over by the angry man in the dark suit who stormed out of Valenti's office, missing her by inches as he took off down the hallway....and leaving the door open in the perfect invitation.
Valenti was at his desk, digging in one of his lower drawers. "What do you want now?" he barked when he heard his office door close. "Didn't I just get rid of you?"
"Don't be silly," Dee said. "You know you'll never get rid of me."
Valenti's head flew up in surprise. "Mrs. Evans?" he said, checking his watch. "What on earth are you doing here in the middle of the night?"
"Looking for you. I need your help."
For the second time in as many minutes, Dee found herself swallowing what she'd been about to say. Am I really doing this? she thought. Because once done, there was no going back, no way to retract what had been said short of claiming insanity or inebriation. "I'm sorry to bust in on you like this," she babbled, playing for time, for just a few more seconds to weigh her options. "It looks like you've got something big going on—"
"Fine, Dee....we both know that if you're here at this hour, something's very wrong. Out with it."
"Right," Dee said slowly. "Okay. Well....for starters, I....I mean, you....." She paused, the speech she'd hastily put together in the car on the way here sounding suddenly ridiculous.
"You're dithering," Valenti remarked dryly. "You never dither. Guess there really is a first time for—"
"You were right about Courtney Harris," Dee broke in. "Sort of."
Valenti closed the drawer he'd been rifling through with a thud and gave her his full attention. "Did she have something to do with Mark Green?"
"With his murder? No," Dee answered. "With him in other ways......yes."
"How?" Valenti demanded.
Dee fixed her eyes on a point just past Valenti's shoulder, still uncertain this was the right thing to do. "Mark Green was an alien, and....so is Courtney."
Valenti stared at her for a long moment before slowly leaning back in his chair.
"Go on," he said warily.
"Long story short," Dee said, relieved that he wasn't yelling, or freaking out, or doing much of anything. "There are two groups of aliens here, each fighting the other because of a war on their planet. Courtney's technically a member of Group B, but she's part of a rebel faction which supports Group A....and I think she's been discovered."
"Because she's missing. I just left Mrs. Bruce's house, and there are a couple of strange....'men'.....tearing her room apart. I don't think they'll hurt Mrs. Bruce because they can't afford to draw more attention to themselves, but—."
" 'More' attention? What does that mean?"
"The aliens who took Courtney are the ones causing all those weird lights," Dee explained. "The lights are meant to snuff out the aliens in Group A, but they know you're on to them, so I think they'll lay as low as they can. But I'd still like to make sure Mrs. Bruce is okay, so I need you to send some men over there, and I need your help to find Courtney before they kill her."
"Wait a minute," Valenti broke in, holding up a hand. "So after all this time, after years spent fending me off, hell, after spending the entire summer turning a fire hose on me any time I went near Miss Harris.....you suddenly expect me to believe all this?"
Oh, for heaven's sake! Dee thought in exasperation. Of all the reactions she'd expected, rehearsed responses to, disbelief wasn't one of them. She had to be very, very careful how much she revealed, so simply piling on more information wasn't the answer. Still, with only her word for it....
Dee's hand brushed against her pocket, instantly solving her problem. Without a word, she set Courtney's trithium generator in the middle of the desk and pushed a button graced by an indecipherable alien symbol. Valenti's eyes widened as the room was instantly bathed in the pinkish glow which had plagued his town for the past several weeks.
"Shut it off," he hissed suddenly, his eyes darting toward the door. "Shut it off!"
Dee complied, leaving the generator on the desk. Valenti perched on the edge of his chair, peering at it with fascination, never touching it. After what seemed a very long time, he sat back in his chair and began to....laugh. It started as a chuckle and progressed to a cackle before escalating into a full blown guffaw, the kind that leaves you gasping for breath and unable to speak. Dee gaped at him for a good minute, one of the rare times in her life when she found herself at a loss for something to say.
"What's so funny?" she demanded, her being at a loss for words not only rare, but short-lived. "I didn't say anything funny!"
"You most certainly did," Valenti said, wiping his eyes. "How long have we been at it, you and I? More than a decade, starting with that sneaker of yours I found at the crash site and all the way through this summer when you beat me off with a stick any time I got close to Courtney Harris. And when you finally decide to talk to me, to come clean, you pick tonight of all nights. It's not only funny, it's downright hilarious. Or tragic," he added, suddenly sober. "You could call it that too."
"I have no idea what you're talking about," Dee said irritably. "Do you mean because you're busy? You can't be so busy that—"
" 'Busy'?" Valenti echoed. "Do you want to know why I'm 'busy'? Did you happen to see all those suits out there? Yes, of course you did," he said before she could answer. "You don't miss much; you never did. Those suits are the FBI. And not only the FBI, but a special unit within the Bureau whose mandate is to hunt aliens."
"Shit!" Dee exclaimed as Valenti's eyebrows rose. "What the hell are they doing here now? Are they here because of the lights?"
"No, they're here because of a body we found in the woods south of town by the Indian reservation," Valenti answered. "You wouldn't happen to know anything about that, would you?" He paused, taking in her guarded expression. "So," he continued slowly. "I see your sudden burst of honesty has its limits. Doesn't matter, really. There's nothing I can do for you."
"What? Why not?"
"Because I've got the feds on my ass like a rash. They followed me to the woods tonight, and they'll follow me anywhere else I go."
"So we'll lose them," Dee said impatiently. "You of all people should be able to throw off a few nosy agents."
"And the minute I try, they'll know I'm trying," Valenti said. "If Agent Lewis so much as suspects I'm keeping something from him, he'll go after my family; he's already tried once. If he finds out who I've talked to, he'll go after you and your family, which I'm reasonably certain you don't want. And should I happen to locate Miss Harris and extricate her from whatever mess you think she's in, what do you think they'll do to her once they get their hands on her? I seem to recall Captain Spade not having a very high opinion of what happened the last time we held an alien captive, Mrs. Evans. You might be doing Miss Harris a favor by leaving her right where she is."
"I don't believe this!" Dee exclaimed. "I come in here and tell you what you want to know, what you've always wanted to know, and now you won't do anything?"
"It's hard for me to believe too," Valenti sighed. "Maybe harder. But believe me when I say that if I get involved in this now, it could do more harm than good for an awful lot of people. I'll send someone over to Mrs. Bruce's house to check on her....concern for an old lady might slip under their radar.....but that's the most I can do. I'm afraid you're on your own."
"I...." Dee swallowed, thinking of what had happened to Malik when she was on her own. "I don't know if I can do this on my own."
"Of course you can," Valenti said briskly. "You always have." He rose from his chair. "Now get out of here. Use the back door; pretend you have to use the bathroom. And for God's sake, keep this out of sight," he added, pointing to the generator, still unwilling to touch it. "If they catch you with it, I can't protect you, and..." He hesitated, his expression softening. "And you have no idea how much it pains me to say that. I'm sorry."
Theirs eyes locked, what she saw in his squelching any urge to argue the subject further—fear. Valenti was afraid, and anything he was afraid of must be very bad indeed. Without another word, she scooped up the generator, stuffed it in her pocket.....and paused.
"Something else?" Valenti asked.
"Yes," Dee answered, grabbing a pencil from the desk and scribbling on the back of an envelope, which Valenti examined curiously when she handed it to him.
"If the enemy insists on breathing down your neck, you may as well turn it to your advantage," Dee replied. "Let the FBI follow you. I'm hoping they will."
Valenti smiled faintly. "Why, Mrs. Evans.....that's positively devious. Who in the world have you been talking to?"
"No one from this world. Good luck, sheriff."
"Same to you," Valenti said quietly.
Dee checked the hallway to make certain it was clear before leaving the office. Men in dark suits were near the front doors, so she took Valenti's advice and asked to use the ladies' room, slipping out the back door into the autumn night when she was certain no one was looking. No one was in the parking lot, so she reached her car without attracting attention, climbed into the driver's seat.....
.....and gasped when she lifted her eyes to her rear view mirror and saw who was in her back seat.
Outskirts of Roswell
Courtney winced as she was forced onto her knees in the center of the ring of operatives, her hands tied behind her back. Beside her knelt her father, radiating waves of disapproval and disappointment that were by now quite familiar. How ironic that here, at the end, he was every bit as disgusted with her as he'd ever been.
Everyone withdrew, moving off to the side around Nicholas, who was now far from calm. Probably giving orders for his torture chamber, she thought sourly, watching the way his eyes glowed, the way his hands moved animatedly like a conductor urging on his symphony. Nicholas so loved torture. It was probably worth it to him to find the resistance lurking in his midst just so he had an excuse to torture someone.
"Why did you do that?" her father hissed beside her. "All you had to do was tell him you were loyal! Was that so difficult?"
"Yes," Courtney said tonelessly.
"Damn it, Courtney, this is no time for games!" Michael exclaimed. "The resistance needed you, and—"
"They wouldn't have had me anyway," Courtney interrupted. "Do you really think he would have believed me if I'd said 'yes'? We both know he wouldn't. And even if he had, I'm not you, Papa. I can't spend years sucking up to that little prick."
"So this is all about you, is it?" Michael demanded.
"Yes, it's all about me," Courtney deadpanned. "Honestly, Papa, you know how it would have gone if I'd told him what he wanted to hear—even if he'd believed me, he would have watched me like a hawk, with anyone I talked to or even came within ten feet of being suspect. I wouldn't have been able to do anything for the resistance under those circumstances except give them away."
"You don't know he wouldn't have believed you," Michael argued. "Nicholas has always had a soft spot for you. I wanted you to help lead the resistance in my place!"
"Me?" Courtney scoffed. "I could never have done that. And why would you even ask me to after spending all that time calling me inexperienced, and immature, and reckless, and every other nasty adjective you could think of?"
Her father paled, and Courtney was instantly sorry she'd said that. "I know I've been hard on you," he admitted. "I haven't told you how proud I am of you nearly enough. But it's only because I knew how talented you are, how smart, and I wanted you to be better. And safe. I wanted you to be safe. That was selfish of me, I suppose."
"Don't be ridiculous, Papa," Courtney said gently. "You've given your whole life to the resistance, and look what you've accomplished. Those couldn't be the only hybrids; some of them must have gotten through. You've earned the right to a little selfishness." She leaned sideways, resting her chin on his shoulder. "I'm not sorry I did what I did. It's better this way. We both know too much, and we can't afford to let him find out what we know. So if we're both dead, then I want to die with you. Next to you. And if that's selfish....so be it."
Heads were turning; it was almost time for the "fun" to begin. "They're coming," Michael whispered.
"I know," Courtney said, not bothering to look. "I promise I won't tell them anything, no matter how much they torture you."
"They're not coming for me," her father said dully. "They're coming for you. They'll torture you, and make me watch."
Courtney shivered slightly. "Makes no difference. You won't tell them anything either."
"No," Michael said, his voice stronger now. "I won't. Nor will I let them use us against each other." He paused. "Forgive me."
Her head flew up. "For what?" she asked warily.
"I love you," her father whispered. "Whatever happens....remember that."
Too late, she saw one of his hands move. She only had a second to recoil before his husk exploded in a shower of skin flakes that rained down on everyone in the barn.
My husband unexpectedly gifted me with a trip to New York City to celebrate our silver wedding anniversary. (As you can imagine, I said, "Yes!" Just like I did 25 years ago. ) So I'll post Chapter 90 on Sunday, September 13. From there it's smooth sailing until October 11 when the last chapter in this book will be posted, and 2 weeks after that, Book 5 will start.